Defoe, Dissent, and Typology

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Date
2013-08-02
Authors
McKendry, Andrew
Keyword
Dissent , Robinson Crusoe , Practical Religion , Daniel Defoe , Nonconformity , Typology
Abstract
This dissertation investigates how Dissenting writers, among them Samuel Annesley and Richard Baxter, influenced the religious thought of Daniel Defoe. Though some critics, most notably G. A. Starr and J. Paul Hunter, have positioned Defoe within a broad "Puritan" tradition, his religious ideas are more properly understood within the specific circumstances of post-Restoration England, as the unique pressures engendered by the Interregnum impelled many Dissenting writers to privilege "Practical Religion" over abstract theology. The aversion to "doubtfull disputations" that Defoe inherits from this discourse informs not only the modes of argument Defoe employs, but also the genres through which he engages with theological questions. Throughout his writing, however, his attachment to Biblical typology, which is informed by his dependence on the Bible as a stable locus of indisputable “plainness,” comes into conflict with his political tenets, as Scripture provides no firm precedent for the mode of contractual kingship introduced by the Glorious Revolution. At first seeking to mute the incongruities between "Hebrew times" and "modern" circumstances, Defoe is eventually impelled to reconceptualise typology, formulating a theory that both acknowledges the authority of the Bible while allowing William, and the mode of contractual kingship he represents, to surpass Scriptural types. This attitude towards typology fundamentally underpins the narrative of Robinson Crusoe (1719), which systematically repudiates Biblical narratives. Rather than adhering to prefigurative Biblical patterns, the novel is built on a series of divergences, first personal and then political, from Scriptural models. Anchored in his specific geographic and economic circumstances, Crusoe’s conversion is markedly distanced from Biblical types, represented as a process unique to his situation, rather than an iteration of an existing pattern. Ultimately, this dissertation contends that Defoe’s religious thought, specifically his commitment to "Practical Religion" and the typological hermeneutic this discourse underpins, is fundamentally informed by his relationship with post-Restoration Dissent.
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